Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Are We Having Fun Yet?

On Tuesday, I had the great pleasure of "flying the friendly skies" in order to make my way from the West Coast to the East Coast. Up to now, my flying experiences have been pretty mundane: I breeze through check-in, security, and the terminal to reach the appointed gate at least an hour in advance so that I can sit in total relaxation and read whatever riveting material I've brought along. This time, there was a hiccup (more of a bronchospasm, really) that set the tone for the entire day.

We left the house with plenty of time to arrive with an hour to spare. Traffic was very light and I was secure in the knowledge that missed flights are things that happen only to Other People. Most likely because Other People are notorious for not planning ahead, unlike Me. After all, I'm very close friends with Justin Case.

The closer we got to San Jose, however, the heavier the traffic became. But by this point I could see the airplanes coming and going from the airport, and the GPS assured me that we were only eight minutes away from our destination. And yet it took us a good half hour to knock five minutes off that estimation; and I could clearly see myself wearing that horrible Missed Flight stigma that would forever label Me as Other People. Despite what my sister may tell you, I was nowhere near the puking point of panicking, but I was definitely stressed and ready to scream/cry/hit something; or possibly just drag my bags behind me as I sprinted through traffic, carrying the GPS for guidance.

All thoughts of goodbye hugs, and tender farewells in the terminal had long since fled the scene, and as we pulled up to the curb, my only thought was "Get all three bags into the airport now!" The extra adrenaline made heaving my fifty pound suitcase out of the trunk much easier than it should have been, and I was off.

An American agent saw my rush and offered to check my bag at their curbside station. I gratefully accepted and informed him that my flight was due to leave in just over half an hour, and he assured me that I still had two minutes before the deadline for checked luggage. Oh, and do you have another form of payment? My card-reader doesn't like your debit card.

Since I had no other form of payment, he led me inside where everyone was nice enough to let me cut in line to get my %#&@ bag checked. This time the debit card was accepted. I was given my boarding passes and the news that my flight was already boarding.

Slinging my computer bag over my shoulder and grabbing my carryon, I sprinted up the escalator and through the maze of barriers to security. Thankfully, the line was infinitesimal and I was able to shove all of my stuff through in very little time. Unfortunately, the Smurfs running the show were using the full body scanner rather than the metal detector, so I had to swallow my pride and hold my hands up in surrender before they would grant me entry to their kingdom.

But Snoopy Smurf didn't like the look of my carryon, so she had me stand by and watch her dig through it before sending it back through the x-ray. Then she wiped it down and told me I was free to pack it back up and be on my way. How gracious.

It was at this point that I decided I better figure out where I was headed. So while I was power-walking down the hallway, I scanned my boarding pass, trying to locate a gate number. That box was notably blank. I remembered the ticket agent giving me that information verbally as I sprinted away from him, but I hadn't really been listening at that point, figuring it would be - oh, I don't know - written on my ticket. So I did my best Shawn Spencer impersonation, which isn't very impressive on a good day, and headed to the corresponding gate. Amazingly, I picked the right one.

When I reached the appointed doorway, they were packing the last few people onto a very full flight, and turning away pathetic hopefuls who'd been put on Standby due to a cancelled flight the night before. Thankfully, I still had a seat. There just wasn't anymore overhead storage. So my carryon was checked all the way through to Richmond. All I could do was pray it didn't get lost along the way.

The flight itself was wonderfully uneventful and actually very boring - a glorious change from the high-stress morning. Although I was disappointed to discover that they charge money for their in-flight WiFi; and all their snacks were off-limits due to my diet. Still, by the time we reached DFW, my good spirits were back in place and I had a smile on my face: I was in Texas!

I was a little miffed that I had to make my way from Terminal A to Terminal C, but I had a good two hours to kill before my connecting flight. Along the way, I stopped in every single gift shop and quickly discovered that they all carried the exact same stuff for the exact same price. Sadly, I bought nothing except a bottle of water.

By the time I found my new gate, I still had plenty of time and the stress-levels were wonderfully low. I called home to let them know I had made it on time and wasn't stranded in California. Then I called the Dallas relatives, just to chat. Then I tried out a few more stores nearby, just because I could. Yes, sir, life was good and I was home free.

Until I settled in to wait and was joined by two Asian ladies. The younger of the two very politely inquired about my plans: was I going to take this flight? At my affirmative, she smiled and asked if I would mind helping her mother. Daughter lives in Fort Worth and was done traveling for the day, but Mother needed to take this last flight. The only problem was that Mother doesn't speak English, and Daughter was worried that if the gate was changed or some other problem arose, Mother would end up on the wrong flight. So could I please make sure she boarded the proper flight at the appropriate time?

And I, being the brave, caring, generous spirit that I am (read: a pushover who's too timid to say no) said that it would be my pleasure. No problem at all. The whole time imagining all the possible problems that could arise from this situation.

Daughter thanked me and left.

Suddenly, I was no longer lounging in the warm cocoon of Plenty Of Time before the last leg of my journey. No, now I was chained to the uncomfortable airport chair - unable to walk even to the bathroom for fear my new charge would assume we were changing gates, or simply disappear while I was gone. The rest of the wait was spent trying to figure out how to handle several different hypothetical situations should they arise.

Despite Daugher's claim that her mother spoke no English, I'm pretty sure she understood what the word "boarding" meant. For it was around this time that the gate agent announced that the in-bound crew had called for maintenance before they left. Our flight crew had yet to arrive, and the mechanics had not yet determined the extent of needed repairs, and so it was possible that they would have to delay boarding.

At the sound of that magical "b" word, Mother came close to jumping to her feet and heading down the jetway. But the lack of movement from all the other waiting people informed her that it wasn't time yet.

Three more times the gate agent let us know that we couldn't start boarding yet, and each time she jerked as if someone had shocked her, ready to leap to her feet. By the time he announced that we were finally boarding and still scheduled to leave on time, Mother was ready to get the show on the road! When she saw everyone else start getting in line, she began waving impatiently to me, wanting me to hurry it up so we could all get on board. The only problem was that they were only boarding First Class, and she was in Group 6.

I managed to communicate the need to wait using the universal raised index finger and a smile; but when they called up the next group, she was off again and once more I had to stop her. We went through this for First Class, Party Class, and Groups 1-5. Each time she seemed to get a little more impatient, and managed to inch her way a little closer to the line. By the time they called Group 6, I was convinced that she thought I was some crazy American who was trying to keep her off the flight. Meanwhile, my mind was conjuring an image of her butting through the line, not understanding when the agents tried to correct her, and me ending up in jail for somehow being entangled with a disorderly passenger.

Thankfully, her group was called and we could both board (I was supposed to be in Group 4). The last I saw of her, she was crawling into her row, tossing me a smile and a wave over her shoulder as I headed further down the aisle. I was happy to let her go.

This time, I was finally granted a window seat. To make matters even sweeter, there wasn't anyone in the middle seat, so there was more elbow room for myself and the lady in the aisle seat. But by the time we were airborne, the sun was already setting and the lightbulb over my seat didn't work, so reading was out. The majority of the flight was spent trying to sleep and failing miserably. Even with the extra seat to stretch out on, I was in the row in front of the Emergency Exit, so I couldn't lean my seat back. Not very comfortable.

We managed to reach our final destination five minutes early, despite a shaky start and a rainy finish. All of my bags made it; I wasn't beaten/shot/stabbed/kidnapped/mugged while waiting for my ride home; and best of all, I avoided that horrible circumstance of becoming Other People!

And now it is very early in the morning and I'm enjoying JETLAG!! Whoopie!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Catholic, Young and . . . Single?

In the recent past, my feminine love for jewelry finally muscled its way past my long-standing tomboyish tendencies. The Practical Pig in me, however, finds it hard to wear a meaningless piece of bling, so everything I wear must have a meaning. This being the case, I finally gave in to my desire for something shiny when we came across a 50% Off Everything In The Silver Store Sale on Cannery Row; but I couldn't bring myself to buy a dolphin, a whale tail, or an elephant head because I knew I'd never wear it again. So I ended up with a Claddagh ring after years of resisting the temptation.

Sadly, the first thing I realized when we got back home was that my hands had been slightly swollen from hanging by my sides and also from the unusual heat of the day. So the ring does not, in fact, stay on my ring finger, and it's a squeeze to get it past the knuckles of my other fingers. Despite this, I decided to be a trifle rebellious and wear it on my pointer finger. But then the question arose: Which way do I wear it?

I'd heard the tradition many times over, but I'd never managed to get the directions straight in my head. I knew only that I ought not wear it on my left hand or risk becoming an old maid. So I went with my gut and had the crown pointed towards the wrist on my right hand, fairly confident I was proclaiming my availability to any savvy young men who might happen to see it. But I wasn't positive.

So I checked the source of all knowledge and learning: Wikipedia. This is what I got:

"The wearing of a Claddagh ring in modern usage is usually intended to convey the wearer's romantic availability, or lack thereof. The ring is worn on the right hand with the heart oriented away from the wearer, to show that the wearer is not romantically linked. When turned the other way, it shows that the wearer is in a relationship, or their heart has been "captured". When worn on the left hand with the heart oriented again away from the wearer, it implies the wearer is engaged; turned the other way, it indicates the wearer is married."

From this I was led to believe that I was, in fact, wearing it upside-down and that the crown should point towards my fingertip to show the world my lack of a love life. So I flipped it.

But it still felt wrong. So I asked my sister and brother-in-law who both quickly volunteered their knowledge. In the ensuing discussion, there was much confusion regarding which way a heart points - does the top indicate direction or does the pointy part on the bottom? But once we managed to settle on the crown as a reference point, he said towards the fingertip and she said towards the wrist. Hooray for clarity.

That evening I decided to ask my best friend, who also wears a Claddagh and is also single, how she wears hers. She began to explain, but again used the heart rather than the crown as a reference point. By this point I was beginning to see where the confusion comes from. But again, once the crown was chosen to be the pointer, she agreed that it should be towards the wrist. So at this point it seemed to be three against two with the wrist in the lead.

Hoping to find a finalizing vote, I approached the source of all wisdom and power: Google. One link in particular looked promising, so I gave it a whirl.

"The Irish Claddagh Rings are probably the most culturally rich pieces of jewelry ever recorded in history. The meaning, significance and history of the Cladagh ring has a rich ancient past that dates back to over 300 years. The design of the Cladag ring and even the way the ring is worn are all deeply rooted in Irish tradition."

So now I'm not only confused about how to wear it, I'm totally baffled as to how it's even spelled! This particular website continues on to say:

"The meaning and significance of the Claddagh ring is not just in the crown, heart and clasping hands, it also extends to the hand on which the ring is worn and the direction in which the crown on the ring points. In case of a married or engaged person Claddagh rings are worn on the left hand with the crown pointing away from the (the person wearing the ring) heart. For a person willing to consider love the ring is traditionally worn on the right hand with the crown pointing away from the heart. For a person not interested in starting a relationship the Cladagh ring is worn on the right hand with the crown pointing towards the heart."

What??? Where did this come from? So, now I'm telling the world that I'm some Love Scrooge who wants nothing more than to be left alone?!

At this point, the score is: Wrist-3, Fingertip-2, Love Scrooge-1. Based on these findings, I've decided to go with the wrist and comfort myself with the thought that the confusion surrounding these rings gives me about a 50/50 chance of sending the proper message, which is no better and no worse than wearing no ring at all, but has the bonus of getting to wear something shiny!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"No, your real driver's license, please."

During my stay here in what was once Ft. Ord, I've had many occasions to accompany my sister through the gates of the Presidio of Monterey. As is standard procedure at all military posts, I.D. is required and I willingly hand over my driver's license each time. Despite the effort I expend "rumaging" as my sister puts it, before we reach the gate, sometimes they don't even bother checking mine - they simply see the military I.D. of my chaperone and wave us through. Those conscientious enough to check invariably have some sort of commentary regarding my oh-so-beauteous license.

"What kind of I.D. card is that?"

"Wow, Virginia's got a funky driver's license!"

"Whoa! What-? Virginia, huh?"

This is generally followed by a quick peer into the car to see what sort of person carries this marvel. For those poor souls who have never seen these works of art Virginia produces, here's the best picture I can find without scanning my own and uploading it. Even I'm not that dumb.

(Yes, it's pink and purple, no matter what gender you are.)

(The background is a mess of dogwood flowers that, when studied closely, are actually made up of words.)

(The driver's signature is embossed. Makes us feel all important and stuff.)

(This small oval is a transparent little window with the driver's ghostly face in it, almost like you sold them your soul for this plastic card and they trapped it there and gave it back, only to snatch it again should you fail to meet their standards on the road.)

The horizontal ones have some sort of building on it instead of flowers, I think, but since I haven't bothered to get mine changed since I turned 21 (no, it hasn't expired yet) I haven't had a chance to study them in depth.

*Since this image is floating all over Google Images, I'm pretty sure it's a mock-up. If not, I guess Alyssa Faith James is dumb enough to scan hers and post it online. I, however, claim no responsibility for her idiocy.*

My Mission

I figure the first post of any new blog should basically be one's mission statement. Therefore, my mission is this: to scream into the abyss whenever I feel like it, assuming that those who take some small modicum of interest in my life will read what I have to say and find some strange sort of pleasure in following my day-to-day. I hope to be amusing, uplifting, perhaps even hysterical on occasion. I in no way intend to bore or torture anyone, and I will do my best to refrain from beating my readers over the head with the drama and angst of my life. Keep in mind, even when you're the bug, the windshield will not win so long as you remember how to laugh.